The UK will oppose the proposed 37% increase in the EU’s culture budget. The European Commission has put forward a new programme for 2014-2020 under the banner “Creative Europe” to cover culture, media and a “cross sectoral financing facility”. Ed Vaizey, the UK’s Minister for Culture, Communication and the Creative Industries told a Parliamentary Committee on 15 March that the UK does not support any increase in the EC’s budget, in these days of austerity. Consequently it opposes the increase in the culture budget. (The Minister’s uncorrected comments to the Committee are here).
Vaizey gave strong support to the objectives of the culture programme and to the support to the media and film industries. In particular he supported the translation programme saying the publishing industry was often overlooked.
Vaizey said: “On one level it is unusual for me as a Culture Minister to oppose a proposed substantial increase in a budget designed to support the cultural and creative industries, but I do oppose it because I very much sign up to the Government’s position that in times of great economic austerity, when the European Union should be focused on growth, looking hard at its budget and the money it spends and reducing it if possible, it would be terribly wrong for me, given my own particular passion, to say, “That’s all very well but we’ll take the increase in the culture programme“.
He singled out the proposed financial facility for strong opposition . The Commission have proposed this loan guarantee facility as small businesses in the creative industries have difficulty attracting commercial loans from the financial sector in many countries. Vaizey disputed this. His objections rested on the risk that starting such a loan guarantee system ran the risk of other sectors seeking similar preferential treatment, and that the better way forward was to educate the investors. His own ministry has recently launched a support scheme based around tax relief.
Two surprises came from the hearing. Vaizey does not know or meet his ministerial counterparts across the EU. He did recall a short meeting with the French Culture Minister at the Venice Architectural Biennale. Secondly his Ministry has only received 6 responses to its consultation on Creative Europe. This clearly concerned the Minister. So much so that the Cultural Contact Point wrote out that evening saying the deadline for comments has been extended to 26 March.
The UK’s view is not surprising. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he will not let the EC claim an exception to the general cuts in government spending that we are seeing across the EU. The EC’s culture budget increase is a casualty of this policy. The messages for the “We are More” campaigners are clear:
* the need to argue why culture is more effective than other areas of EC spend (presumably the Common Agriculture Policy as the largest element of the EU’s budget)
* why the local guarantee facility will help small and medium companies in the creative and cultural sector.
* and, in the UK, to get your views to DCMS and Vaizey before 26 March.
General pleas to a conceptual idea of a “Europeanness” will fall I suspect fall on deaf ears (the point of another article soon). As governments cut their own budgets only hard evidence will sway them now.